What comes to your mind when you think of sushi? Are you thinking of an exciting roll? Maybe a nigiri? Or are you think of the single slice of raw meat placed with some garnish. Funny enough most of us out here in the west have a misunderstanding of what sushi is. It is widely thought outside of Japan, that sushi and or sashimi is a Japanese dish made with raw fish, but this is far from the truth. Even more interesting sushi and sashimi are two entirely different things.
Sushi and Sashimi are not the Same?
The confusion between these two things is somewhat understandable, considering every sushi restaurant has a variety of sashimi dishes. By definition though, sushi is any dish containing vinegared rice also known as sushi rice. So, since sashimi is a serving of mostly raw fish slices with several types of garnishes that do not include rice, sashimi technically is not a type of sushi. That’s right, we were misled.
Sashimi is a truly beautiful cut of fish and or other meats that are either lightly cooked or completely raw. Sashimi is only prepared from sashimi grade fresh fish. The name Sashimi actually translates to pierced flesh (Sashi-pierced, mi-flesh). It is believed this preparation of fish got its name from the harvesting method, where the fish is caught by a hand line and pierced with a sharp spike immediately and stored in ice. “Sashimi Grade” tuna, salmon, and other sea products are most commonly treated with a little rice vinegar and served. Important to know that the fresher the meat (fish, beef, chicken), better the taste and texture.
Sushi and Sashimi Chefs train for long periods of time to master using the sashimi knife and properly slicing and preparing these high-quality ingredients. Most popular fishes used in making of sashimi are Maguro (tuna), Saba (mackerel), Sake (salmon), Tai (red snapper), Hamahi (yellow tail), Tako (octopus), Kihada (yellowfin tuna), and even landbased animal meats like Gyuunotataki (beef), Torisashi (chicken), Toriwasa (slightly seared chicken) and Basashi (horse).
History of Sashimi
While sushi and sashimi are different dishes, they both have a history dating back to the 8th century Southeast Asia. Tracing its roots to the fish preserving and fermenting techniques of the past, narezushi the first sushi dish, and was time-consuming to prepare. That is why sashimi came about, using rice vinegar the process that took months was reduced to minutes. Arguably nigiri and sashimi were the first instances of “fast food” being sold to customers.
Sashimi quickly gained vast popularity along with the growth of sushi’s popularity. People loved the on the go, quick and easy preparation and consumption of these fish. In the past, the fish was fermented before and sushi restaurants could only serve the dish certain hours of day since it took too long to prepare. In contrast, you could purchase a sashimi served in odd numbers (they believed it was bad luck to give even number of pieces), and served on special plates called mukozuke. Alongside a garnish of shiso leaves, cucumbers, seawood, grated cabbage, celery, daikon and a sauce of wasabi and soy, and all within minutes.
There is endless flavour in sashimi starting from the top levels of fish meats selected and the exact science of cutting and preparing it, to the presentation with just the right garnish. Trying sashimi for the first time can be challenging as it is a different texture and most people get freaked out by the raw aspect of the fish, but we most definitely recommend giving it a go. You will not regret it.